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April 16, 1976 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-04-16

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r A~frmtarn Dai
Eighty-Six Years of Editorial Freedom
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Booking flicks

0
in

the

Friday, April 16, 1976

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan
"St ol Mei"t 1'r IOcIGK6- 1 4E 1'||q OOF:bFOLn- E

By DAVID BLOMQUIST
UNLIKE GLAMOROUS CELEBRITY
openings, the emphasis at this film
premiere is strictly on business. The au-
dience gathered in a small theater in
downtown Detroit is an exclusive elite-
representatives of Michigan movie thea-
ter companies and a major film distrib-
utor, assembled to satisfy an avid busi-
ness curiosity.
This is the fourth of five articles on
the movie industry.
Weeks before, salesmen for the dis-
tribution firm contracted bookings for
the movie on this morning's preview
program. If the picture is a slick, high-
budget production featuring expensive
talent, the exhibitors (i.e. theater own-
ers) may have already been required to
post substantial advances. But, except
in rare cases, none of them has ever
seen even a glimpse of the finished film.
THE DISTRIBUTOR HAS made no ad-
vance promises on the quality of the
film; indeed, he may not be fully aware
of the movie's plot line. But no mat-
ter. Unless the exhibition contract con-
tains a cancellation clause (and not
many do), the picture will open at area
theaters as scheduled, even if it looks
like an almost certain loser.
"It's a crazy way to run a business,"
admits Franklin Osborne, Detroit branch
manager for Twentieth Century - Fox.
"At some screenings, I get dirty looks
in the dark because I've inadvertently
sold exhibitors a bill of goods on a film.
They're watching it, and they can't
believe it. So they point at me and say
'That's the last time you do that to
me'."
Yet "blind booking" - selling a pic-
ture to theaters without prior screening
-is as much a part of American mo-
tion pictures as popcorn and soda pop.
"I don't like to rub salt in anybody's
wounds, so I just walk away at screen-
ings, knowing that the next time I'm
probably going to be able to sell the
same thing," Osborne continues. "It
seems like we, the distributors, are
sadists, and the exhibitors are maso-
chists."
TYPICALLY, film schedules are firm-
ed up four to five months in advance -
weeks before the final "cut" bf a pic-

ture is completed. Theater representa-
tives called "bookers" must choose
movies and put down deposits from
scant details - often no more than a
listing of cast and technical crew with
a brief plot summary.
"The biggest challenge that you've got
as a booker is trying to evaluate what
pictures that you haven't seen might do
at the box office," says Sam Oshry, a
Detroit booker who selects "product" for
United Artists Theater Circuit, owners
of The Movies at Briarwood.
"You don't have a Ouija board; you
don't have a crystal ball. We're guess-
ing. You take all the things that you

CONSEQUENTLY, if the booker bets
incorrectly and schedules an expensive,
high guarantee film that attracts little
business (such as The Great Gatsby) the
major market exhibitor can lose several
thousand dollars in each theater over
the course of a run.
Even beyond the guarantee, the dis-
tributor still takes in between 60 to 90
per cent of box office receipts -- leav-
ing the exhibitor with the slim remain-
der (plus popcorn stand revenue) to
cover advertising, operating costs, and
overhead. (Some distributors 'do, how-
ever, allow exhibitors a small weekly

'Consequently, exhibitors frantically bid to obtain top
first run pictures, especially violent films-the most depend-
ably popular type of movie. "Violence and action pictures
are the easiest kind to sell because kids who go to the show
go for it," says a Detroit branch manager for Twentieth
Century Fox. "They like a lot of fire, a lot of blood, and a
lot of sex. You've got to give them the sex and the vio-
lence."'
,,r.,.

blind
pictures every four week's at the city's
10 theaters would consume 120 films a
year.) Metropolitan areas that are sat-
urated with theaters, like Detroit, gob-
ble up new movies at a rapid pace.
Consequently, exhibitors franctically
bid to obtain top first-run pictures, espe-
cially violent films - the most depend-
ably popular type of movie. "Violence
and action pictures are the easiest kind
to sell because kids who go to the show
go for it," says Osborne. "They like a
lot of fire, a lot of blood, and a lot of
sex. You've got to give them the sex
and the violence."
YET SOME HOUSES inevitably get
stuck with either "second-run" pictures
(films that have already completed an
engagement at one of the major out-
lets) or independent releases.
Major distributors endorse the "sec-
ond - run" practice because it permits
them to milk every possible full-price
admission out of a film before retiring
it to the drive-in double feature circuit.
"In Detroit, we had five, runs of
Young Frankenstein, and the same num-
ber on Towering Inferno. When you can
get that many runs - that kind of
depth - on a picture, you're doing
you're job," Osborne states.
BECAUSE MAJOR distributors prefer
to work with pictures that offer greater
profit potential, independents usually
handle foreign and other "art" films.
"Major companies don't think films that
gross only one or two million dollars are
worth a substantial effort," says Bob
Shaye, president of New Line Cinema,
a New York independent that distributed
Lina Wertmuller's Seduction of Mimi.
Regardless of source of the film, how-
ever, the crucial moment comes at
some point a month or two after con-
tracts are signed, as exhibitor and dis-
tributor gather in a screening room to
view, fresh from California or New
York, a print of the finished product.
"After you see the picture, you hope
you've done the right thing," Osborne
says. But he observes that the waiting
process does not end with the preview:
"Then," he adds, "you've got to sweat
it out for six weeks until the thing
opens."
David Blomquist is a former Arts and
Entertainment Editor of the Daily and
writes frequently for the Arts Page.

can possibly get at your fingertips -
trade papers, people that have seen
rushes (preliminary versions of films)--
and you guess."
,BUT PENALTIES for a wrong guess
can be staggering. Distributors ask
theater owners to bid for films by post-
ing a "guarantee" - that is, requiring
the exhibitor to put up a minimum
amount of money that he will pay for
the privilege of obtaining the movie,
whether it eventually does well in his
theater or not.
The size of the guarantee that a
booker offers becomes a crucial figure
in determining how much profit (if any)
an exhibitor will earn from a picture,
since it in essence represents an ad-
vance against theater grosses.
A major movie in a metropolitan mar-
ket like Detroit might demand a guar-
antee of $75,000. At the usual $3.50 ad-
mission, nearly 21,500 patrons must at-
tend the film before the theater owner
breaks even on his guarantee.

margin for theater operating expenses.)
The exhibitor, then, assumes much of
the financial risk in the production-dis-
tribution - playoff cycle. In order to ob-
tain product, the theater must put "up
front" a substantial guarantee for the
distributor. And if the picture bombs at
the box office, the exhibitor is stuck with
the bad debt.
DISTRIBUTORS gain the upper hand
in the frenetic bidding process thanks to
the elementary rule of supply and de-
mand: exhibitors ideally require more
films than distributors have available
to sell. Rising production costs and lim-
ited capital resources have increasingly
restricted over the years the output of
each studio operation to the point where
there are simply not enough good pic-
tures to go around.
Hollywood production schedules over
the last three years have averaged about
100-125 films, barely enough to sustain
even a medium-size cinema market like
Ann Arbor. (After all, just changing

Ban disposable containers

GOVERNOR MILLIKEN put his John
Hancock on a petition that marks
the beginning of the most recent at-
tempt to place the banning of most
throw-away beverage containers on
the ballot in November.
The petition, being circulated by
the Michigan United Conservation
Clubs (MUCC), would make a deposit
on beverage containers mandatory
- a very important step in the at-
tempt to rejuvenate Michigan's ecol-
ogy.
A similar. bill was proposed last
year, but due to strong opposition
from business groups and factions of
organized labor, it never reached the
floor for debate.
Editorial Staff
ROB MEACHTM EBILL TURQUE
Co-Editors-in-Chief
JEFF RISTINE................Managing Editor
TIM SCHICK .................Executive Editor
STEPHEN HERSH............Editorial Director
JEFF SORENSEN ...... .......Arts Editor
CHERYL PILATE, ..... . . . .. Magazine Editor
STAFF WRITERS: Susan Ades, Tom Allen, Glen
Allerhand, Marc Basson, Dana Bauman, David
Blomquist, James Burns. Kevin Counihan,
Torn Godell, Kurt Harju, Charlotte Heeg,
Jodi Dimick, Mitch Dunitz, Elaine Fletcher,
Phil Foley, Mark Friedlander. David Garfinkel.
Richard James. Lois Josimovich, Tom Kettler.
Chris Kochmanski, Jay Levin, Andy Lilly, Ann
Marie Lpinski, George Lobsenz, Pauline Lu-
bens, Teri Maneau, Angelique Matney, Jim
Nicoll, Maureen Nolan, Mike Norton, Ken Par-
sigian, Kim Potter, Cathy Reutter, Anne
Marie Schiavi, Karen Schulkins, Jeff Selbst,
Rick Sobel, Tom Stevens, Steve Stojic, Cathi
Suyak, Jim Tobin, Jim valk, Margaret Yao,
An rew Zerman, David whiting, Michael Beck-
man, Jon Panstus and Stephen Kuraman.

The major legislative points pro-
posed are a mandatory ten cent de-
posit on most soft drink and beer
bottles and cans, and a ban on all
non-returnable bottles and pull top
cans except for those containing li-
quor or wine.
In order for MUCC to have the
proposal on the ballot in November,
they must gain 212,561 signatures
from Michigan electors by the first
week in June.
WITH THE support of Governor
Milliken, the petition is off to a
good start. Undoubtedly the business
interests in the state will do their ut-
most to keep the proposal from ever
reaching the ballot, and in the event
of failure, will work as hard to have
it defeated.
Non-returnable bottles and cans
inevitably return to the soil from
whence they came--in rivers, parks,
forests, and alongside highways. And
while they came from the earth, It
is next to impossible to return them
in their original form.
It is to be hoped that the reaction
of the electorate to the petition will
be sympathetic and that we can dis-
pose of theproblems gaused by
disposable litter.
TODAY'S STAFF:
News: Phil Bokovoy, Jay Levin, K e n
Parsigion, Jeff Ristine, Tim Schick,
Karen Schulkins
Editorial: Michael Beckman, Jay Levin
Arts: Chris Kochmanski
Photo Technician: Pauline Lubens

The Easter Bunny in fact and fiction

By TOM MARTENS'
(PNS)-Easter Sunday is the
only day when rabbits lay eggs
- colored ones at that.
But don't try to catch a
glimpse of rabbits laying eggs,
because they're so sneaky about
finding hiding places that no
one has seen them. And the
average person will only be able
to find the eggs Easter morn-
ing.
THIS EGG LAYING tale is
what the rabbit community
would like people to believe.
Actually. rabbit eggs are a
hoax, a big joke.
Around the hitch, the rabbit
egg jokes have become as popu-
lar as the "which came first,
the chicken or the egg" puz-
zle.
The great "Easter Egg Joke"
began many years ago in Ger-
many, so the story goes. It all
started during a famine.
A POOR OLD woman dyed
some eggs as an Easter gift
for her children and hid them
near a nest in the backyard.
Just as the children discovered
the nest, a big rabbit jumped
away.
The surprised children con-
cluded the rabbit had laid those
eggs in the nest.
When the tale hit the rabbit
community, local German rab-
bits couldn't control themselves
at the humor of it all.
SO THEY SPREAD the story
around the world, as the legend
goes. And like a good rumor,

the story got a little stretched
as it was passed along.
Pretty soon not only the eggs
were colored but there were col-
ored rabbits, too. And the eggs
- even chocolate eggs - mys-
teriously appeared\ not only in
the backyard, but everywhere.
The whole story got pretty much
out of hand.
When the story got to Egypt
the elders were puzzled by the
strange turn of Easter morning
events, but they found an an-
swer.
THE RABBIT IS considered a
symbol of the moon in Egypt
and since the moon determines
the date that Easter falls on,
the elders thought it must be
causing the rabbit-egg phenom-
enon. So the rabbit became their
Easter symbol.
In the Ukraine in southern
Russia, eggs with elaborate de-
sign strangely began appearing
on Easter Sunday morning. All
to the joy of the rabbits, who
lay snickering in the bushes.
Since those earlier times, chil-
dren have wised up to the ways
of the rabbits. In Belgium, chil-
dren hide nests made of hay
in hopes of luring rabbits to
lay eggs in them. And it works.
BUT THE FRENCH weren't
taken in by the rapidly spread-
ing Easter egg stories.French
mothers often told their chil-
dren that Easter chimes brought
the eggs.
In France and some other
European countries, the church
bells don't ring from Good Fri-

day 'until Easter. So mothers
tell their children the bells fly
to Rome until Easter and on
their way back drop eggs for
boys and girls to find.
In Sweden. rabbits had a field
day. They convinced the Swedes
the egg is a symbol of renewed
vigor and life. So Swedish peo-
ple customarily eat as many
eggs as possible on Easter Sun-
day.
SCOTTISH PEOPLE bury
eggs in their fields at Easter.
According to legend, the farm-
er will have good luck grow-
ing grain if the plow passes
over an egg at the first spring
plowing.
But European Gypsy traditions
were too powerful to be influ-
enced by mere rabbits.

On Easter eve the Gypsies
of southern Europe place herbs
in a simple wooden box. They
then pass around a dead lizard
or snake for everyone to touch
before placing the animal on
the herb pile.
THE BOX IS carried from
tent to tent, then thrown into
a brook. Gypsies believe the
ceremony wards off all health
and misfortune for the coming
year.
If anyone finds and opens the
box, he or she will get all the
maladies the Gypsies have es-
caped. So watch it.
Of course, the craziest cus-
tom on Easter morning belongs
to the Americans. They swal-
lowed the story hook, line and
Easter tale.

EVEN THE PRESIDENT gets
into the act with an egg-rolling
contest on the White House lawn.
Rutherford B. Hayes began the
custom of rolling colored eggs
around the lawn in 1878. Par-
ents muct accompany the chil-
dren for the annual egg roll.
The tradition has been cele-
brated every year, except be-
tween the years 1942-53 when
some sense prevailed. But the
rabbit lobby is powerful in Wash-
ington and has revitalized the
egg tradition.
So while walking to church
or enjoying the spring day, if
you happen to see a rabbit on
Easter morning, don't disturb
her. Sneak up and see what's
going on. You might be sur-
prised.

Ethnic purity' won't stop
Jimmy from rolling along

MAN WM 4 A O

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I

ILetters
To The Daily:
The Michigan Daily d
both strong praise and
pointed criticism for its
coverage of and comm
Michigan Student As
politics.
Beginning with the pra
Daily's efforts to uncov
source of the slander an
slur campaign against t
dent Organizing Con
(SOC) and other MSA
bers deserves the
thanks of all concerned
keeping student politics
honest and serious level.
uratnlate ,enrers Phil

to the Daily
HSA gan Student Assembly itself,
and those who have been work-
ing hard to make it a success,
for the activities of a couple
eserves of unsuccessful MSA candidates.
fairly Both Irving Freeman and Bob
recent Matthews were clearly rejected
ents on by student voters in April's
;sembly MSA election. Neither individual
has any official relationship to
ise, the or role in the MSA, and for good
ver the reason.
d racial Any student has the right to
he Stu- be a candidate for a seat on
mmittee MSA. It is highly unfair to
mem- blame MSA for the ethical short-
grateful comings of two individuals sim-
I about ply because they once sought
on an MSA positions.
I con- The MSA election in April
1Fnlev saw the highest student turn-

By DOC KRALIK
"NORB,'' I SAID to my Chinese roommate
the.other day, "do you think I disturb
the ethnic purity of this apartment?"
I am a mixed breed. My mother was Irish,
my father Hungarian. Clearly I am a child
of a union that Jimmy Carter did not smile
on.
"NO," SAID Norb, "I guess you don't. Af-
ter all, Karen (his girlfriend) is Polish. But
you are a slob."
Carter's statement that he saw nothing
wrong with maintaining the ethnic purity of
neighborhoods was the most outrageous cam-
paign blunder of our time. It is worse than
George Romney's statement that he had been
brainwashed, worse than Muskie shedding a
tear, worse than McGovern whispering in
hecklers' ears. Those errors simply called at-
tention to the humanity of the candidates, and
humanity is not a quality that Americans ap-
plaud in their politicians.
Carter's statement is different. The state-
ment does not just offend black militants and
egg-headed liberals. The statement goes
against the philosophy upon which this coun-
try was founded, that we are not blacks,
whites, or Hungarians, but Americans, and
ultimately human beings with God given
rights. Like the right to live where we want
to, regardless of the ethnic purity of the neigh-
borhood. It was an unfortunate choice of
words indeed.
WHAT MAKES Carter's remarks even more
outrageous is the fact that he will survive
them. Romney, Muskie and McGovern did not

Also, Carter's persistence in using his un-
fortunate terms showed that he is too insensi-
tive to realize the gravity of his error. He
will persist in spite of this mistake, because
to him it was not a mistake.
THE SECOND REASON that Carter will
survive is that his campaign has been suc-
cessful. Those Democrats who are dreaming
of a brokered convention, with Humphrey
emerging as the victor, are ignoring what
may soon be an axiom of modern politics:
The convention belongs to he who wins the
primaries. In the 1968 Democratic convention,
the only exception to this in recent years,
Humphrey was table to bargain for the nomi-
nation only because Kennedy, the front run-
ner in the primaries, was assassinated. If
Humphrey wants the nomination, he must
enter the primaries. This is becoming more
obvious to his supporters every day. But
Humphrey is not only coy, he is campaign
weary. He once possessed the drive of a man
like Carter, but not the style. Now he has
neither.
The final factor in Carter's survival is the
nature of the voters. Americans admire strong
men like Carter, men who are the authors of
events,krather than the victims ofthem, as is
Humphrey, or the glad-handed beneficiaries
of them, as is Ford. Also, most Americans
have stronger feelings about ethnic purity
than Jimmy Carter. Carter, an expert profes-
sional politician, knows when to lead the peo-
ple, and when to follow them.
This was the year that the Democratic pri-
srin ,,a 4'? ItO tn nn~n flina neflm

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